Periodontal Disease Assessed Using Clinical Dental Measurements and Cancer Risk in the ARIC Study

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2018 Aug 1;110(8):843-854. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djx278.


Background: While evidence is increasingly consistent with a positive association between periodontitis and cancer risk, most studies have relied on self-reported periodontitis. In this study, we prospectively evaluated the association of periodontal disease severity with cancer risk in black and white older adults in a cohort study that included a dental examination.

Methods: Included were 7466 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study cohort who at visit 4 (1996-1998) reported being edentulous or underwent the dental examination. Probing depth and gingival recession were measured at six sites on all teeth; these measurements were used to define periodontal disease severity. Incident cancers (n = 1648) and cancer deaths (n = 547) were ascertained during a median of 14.7 years of follow-up. All statistical tests were two-sided.

Results: An increased risk of total cancer (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.24, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.07 to 1.44, Ptrend = .004) was observed for severe periodontitis (>30% of sites with attachment loss >3 mm) compared with no/mild periodontitis (<10% of sites with attachment loss >3 mm), adjusting for smoking and other factors. Strong associations were observed for lung cancer (HR = 2.33, 95% CI = 1.51 to 3.60, Ptrend < .001), and elevated risks were noted for colorectal cancer for severe periodontitis, which were significant among never smokers (HR = 2.12, 95% CI = 1.00 to 4.47). Associations were generally weaker, or not apparent among black participants, except for lung and colorectal cancers, where associations were similar by race. No associations were observed for breast, prostate, or hematopoietic and lymphatic cancer risk.

Conclusions: This study provides additional evidence that cancer risk, especially for lung and colorectal cancer, is elevated in individuals with periodontitis. Additional research is needed to understand cancer site-specific and racial differences in findings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Black People / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diagnosis, Oral* / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Periodontal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Periodontal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Periodontitis / diagnosis
  • Periodontitis / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • White People / statistics & numerical data